Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Golb impersonation case up for appeal

THE RAPHAEL GOLB CASE is coming up on appeal before the New York Supreme Court:
Dead Sea Scrolls Go to Court
A brilliant young Harvard Ph.D. faces jail for impersonating a Bible scholar—and rival of his father

By Batya Ungar-Sargon|January 14, 2013 7:00 AM|38comments

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the New York Supreme Court convened for a hearing in the case of the People vs. Raphael Golb. The matter? That in July of 2008, Golb, a Harvard doctorate, created an email account in the name of Lawrence Schiffman, formerly professor at New York University and now vice provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University. From larry.schiffman@gmail.com, Golb sent emails to the dean, the provost, and the faculty of the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU where Schiffman was formerly the chair.

In the emails, the fictional Schiffman admitted to having plagiarized the work of Norman Golb, professor at the University of Chicago’s prestigious Oriental Institute, Dead Sea Scrolls scholar—and also Raphael’s father. “It is true that I should have cited Dr. Golb’s articles when using his arguments,” the email reads, “and it is true that I misrepresented his ideas. But this is simply the politics of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. If I had given credit to this man I would have been banned from conferences around the world.” It was signed—by some accounts, implausibly—“Lawrence Schiffman, professor,” with a lower-case “p.”

Raphael Golb admits to having sent the email, but he maintains that it was an act of parody, rather than criminal impersonation. “I was exercising my right to expose, condemn, and ridicule the misconduct of other people,” he says. “It says more about Schiffman than it does about me, that people might have believed that an informal email from a gmail account admitting to plagiarism, signed with a lower-case ‘p’ in professor, could have come from an NYU department chair.” The defense argued that Golb was well within his First Amendment rights and that the prosecution was trying to make hurting feelings into a criminal act. But the defense argument failed. In September 2010, Golb was convicted before Judge Carol Berkman of 30 counts of identity fraud, harassment, forgery, and criminal impersonation of Lawrence Schiffman.

Background to the case is here and you can follow many, many links back from there. I have given my take on the case in the article "The Golb Affair." I have further commentary on the case, and on the harm I judge that Golb was intending to inflict on Schiffman and, in a lesser, pathetic way, on the field in general, here. I'm not a lawyer, or a judge in the case, but I can't say I find the parody defense convincing.

I have some comments on the work of the much maligned original team of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars here and here. (As I have mentioned already any number of times, Frank Moore Cross was my doctoral supervisor and I also worked closely with John Strugnell.) And I have thoughts on the theory of Norman Golb here and links.

UPDATE (16 January): Richard Bartholomew has commentary on the article: US Tablet Defends Convicted Dead Sea Scrolls Cyberbully. (Via Bob Cargill on Facebook.)